Classroom Projector Report: Best K12 School Projectors for Education - Performance
The 2012 Classroom Projector Report is sponsored by:
5/14/2012 - Art Feierman
NOTE: I am still adding data to this page The measurements for the last education projectors will be added as the reviews post over the next week.
Classroom Projectors - Brightness
Here in 2012, we find that most of these projectors reviewed are a bit brighter than last year. That said, overall, the industry news is that the typical purchased projector is basically the same brightness as the typical projector in 2011. That is, 2700 lumens claimed.
Overall, in our report, though, the average reviewed projector for our report is lower - due to the addition of three pocket projectors, which are no where near as bright as the rest, even though we have more over 3000 lumen projectors than in previous years. Let's face it folks; you are going to need one really screwed up classroom - that is, a very bright one - perhaps with skylights, to really challenge or defeat a 2500 to 3000 lumen projector in a classroom. That's especially true on a typical, rather reasonable screen size that one typically finds in most classrooms (80" or less). Then, of course we have a few "modern" light engines, various LED and or Laser designs. While those mostly measure 2000 - 2500, we've yet to measure one close to 200 lumens. This time around 1685 lumens was the highest for one of those.
Step into the WayBack machine. Do any of you remember "Mr. Peabody, (a very smart dog), and his pet Sherman (a boy), from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show? In 2001, the most popular commercial projectors for small auditorium or hotel ballroom work, were only 2000 lumens, and those for screen sizes typically 15 to 25 feet diagonal. Of course back then, things were strictly dark or near dark room for presentations. Today we routinely put a 3000 lumen projector in a modest classroom with 30 kids and a screen typically between 60 and 80" diagonal, 100" diagonal at most.
Keep in mind, to fill a 25 foot diagonal screen requires a projector 5.25 times brighter than is needed to fill a 10 foot diagonal projector screen to the same brightness (yes 10 foot diagonal, not 100" diagonal).
Most projectors come up measuring short of claims, although, in fairness, most manufacturers want to base claim on the maximum brightness they can achieve. That doesn't mean that you always have a good image when doing so. In our measuring, we normally make sure that the lumens we quote are watchable. Our goal is to provide numbers that represent reasonable expectations. Pushing contrast so far, to get more lumens, might find you some, but give you an image that may be near unusable.
When it comes to Brightness - as affected by a zoom lens, most projectors for education have limited zoom ranges. In fact Ultra short throw projectors of which there are several, and many (Very) Short Throw projectors, have no zoom lens at all. For the rest, with zoom lenses, we measure with the zoom at mid-point - not at its brightest, or dimmest. Only when you get a projector with a lot of zoom range, such as 2:1 on one of the Casios, is the difference due to the zoom lens, really significant.
Again, there were a couple of projectors sporting more than one eco mode, just to complicate things.
Please note, for this chart, many measured brightness numbers have been changed relative to the reviews, for the following reason:
Mike, Tony, and I all have different light meters. We know that Mike's meter generates the least bright numbers, that's followed by Tony's. We've measured the light meters against each other. For purposes of this chart, and your other comparisons of measured brightness, we are Increasing Mike's measured lumens by 11% (rounded) in order to have "apples" to "apples" brightness comparisons. For the BenQ that I reviewed, I've made the necessary adjustment for my meter, in the review as well, so that number will match the ones in this chart. Only Mike's numbers will be different in the chart, compared to the individual reviews. We apologize for any inconvenience.
|K12 Projectors for Education||Claimed Lumens Brightest mode||Measured Lumens|
|Epson BrightLink 485Wi||3100||3354|
|Epson PowerLite 435W||3000||2639|
*Awaiting new projector - the one we reviewed had a faulty lamp
**Projectors that use an LED light source are in bold
You will find a pretty extensive set of brightness measurements on these projectors.
Last year, the brightest claimed projector in our review was a Sanyo claiming 5500 lumens. This year - there is no Sanyo. That's right, there is no Sanyo anymore. Sanyo was purchased a couple+ years ago by Matsushita (Panasonic). Home theater projectors disappeared first from Sanyo, but at this point, the Sanyo name is simply disappearing completely from the projector marketplace.
Fear not, competition (which drives innovation and pricing) remains stronger than ever. More and more Taiwanese / Chinese (mostly) companies have stepped up, and launched larger, and larger projector lines these past few years. Consider that companies like Acer, Vivitek, Casio, all have large projector lineups, yet none of these players was even thought of for projectors until 2-3 years ago. And there are plenty more.
DLP vs LCD Projectors and Color Lumens
This section is, again, updated repeat from the previous year's report. The purpose is to discuss the concept whether two projectors with different technology - LCD and single chip DLP, measuring the same number of lumens, are really truly equally as bright, or perform equally in terms of color. This is for those curious, definitely not critical reading for buying a projector.
Over two years ago, the 3LCD Group, a trade organization for the LCD manufacturers and projector manufacturers that build LCD projectors, started talking up the creation of a new standard, essentially "Color Lumens." They tell me that this standard is on the way. The two largest sellers of LCD projectors in the US, now both are quoting Color Lumens, and White Lumens separately (on their data sheets, etc.)
In the image above, the Acer X1261P, a DLP, bright on the back right, and the display of a MacBook Pro, on maximum brightness - from last year's report.
Basically we've all been measuring projectors by measuring white, with the common reference being ANSI Lumens, which measures white.. The 3LCD folks point is that differently designed projectors all producing, say 2000 lumens of white, may perform dramatically different when it comes to color, and some would more faithfully
There are valid points there, and some practical trade-offs to discuss.
The 3LCD folks' argument is aimed squarely at the single chip DLP projectors, or at least virtually all of the ones that are not built for home theater. The short version - well, as short as I write, is that single chip business and education DLP projectors use a spinning color wheel, and in almost all cases, they have Red,Green,Blue, and Clear (which we will call white, since white light is what passes through it), some have additional segments, such as yellow, but the underlying issue relates to that clear slice. I'll use the same example as was in last year's report:
With a projector that is just RGB and no White, such as a typical LCD projector, to get 2400 lumens, you pump 800 lumens of pure red, 800 lumens of green, and 800 lumens of blue. Bingo, 2400 lumens of white. (That's not technically correct, but let's go with it.) But what happens when you want to project a pure red on the screen, you know, an intense red, with no green or blue content? The more green and blue added in equal measure, the more pale the red, until you've added amounts equal to the red, and then your red is so pale - actually it's no longer red - it is white.
If we want pure red, as stated, you end up with 800 lumens of pure red. Not so for all projectors though.
With a typical single chip DLP projector though you might have 25% Red, 25% Green, 25% Blue, and 25 % White (clear) slices on the color filter. Well, the white segment is essentially red green and blue, so let's stick with our 2400 lumens example. For the 25% of the time that the wheel is on white, 600 lumens (2400x25%) make it through. Then 600 more for each of the others. Since we are only interested in pure red, and since the white slice is not pure, then one can't use the white filter at all. End result: for red, we get the time the red filter is "live" - 25%, so 25% * 2400 lumens = 600.
When the red filter's turn comes up, bingo, 600 lumens of red make it though. Wait - I just said only 600 lumens, not 800 lumens like an LCD or LCoS projector, The only way the DLP projector can find more red, is as part of the white segment, but with the red coming through the white segment, also come equal proportions of the green and blue. Basically we just can't put as bright a pure red on the screen. Adding white just dilutes it, so we can get 800 lumens of red, but only if we're also putting out 200 lumens each of green and blue, and in that case we no longer have the intense pure red desired.
It's that simple. (OK, not so simple!)
Bottom line: 3LCD has said that having that clear slice on the color wheel prevents the white lumen reading, to accurately reflect a projector's color capabilities. I'd have to agree. That said, do we really need more lumens? Well, the adage says you can never have enough, which I generally agree with.
On the other hand, the average DLP projector for a given price and similar feature set, tends to cost a bit less, so it's not like there's a definitive advantage in overall brightness to either technology for a certain price. The thing is, if you never need more than those 600 lumens of red (or green, or blue), there's no difference. In that case a 2400 lumen DLP projector has enough pure red to do what is needed, even if the equivalent LCD projector can go brighter red.
One real point 3LCD makes does have some real significance: That when maximum brightness pure colors are called for, the DLP just won't be able to match the dynamics of the LCD projector. Just keep in mind that most colors we see in real life aren't pure colors, even the vivid greens of grass, has some blue and red content.
Another consideration is the effect of the clear slice - and its affect on color lumens, regarding the final image being projected.
This takes us beyond measurements into the physical impact of white being out of proportion to the individual pure colors.
Consider, one more time, our 2400 lumen sample projector with a 25% clear slice. If we go back to our assumption that we get 600 lumens of pure red and 2400 or white, that means that the white will be 1/3 brighter then it should be compared to that red. Theoretically, that would distort a photograph's colors relative to white. Those pure colors would not appear to be bright enough. Or, another way of putting it, the white might be glaring, by comparison. Slices of a pie chart placed on a white spreadsheet, be dimmer than intended compared to the white background or a white slice.
Finally, as a general rule, LCD projectors of the same claimed brightness tend to be more expensive than comparably equipped DLP projectors. ( LCoS projectors start even higher prices. One could then make the counterpoint, that well, yes, at the same rated brightness, the DLP projector costs less.
Or, it just might be that a DLP projector comparably equipped to a 3LCD projector, for the same price, delivers not only more white lumens, but might even have as much, or more on the color lumens? If you see that the DLP produces about 30% more white lumens, then figure it at least can hold its own with the brightness of pure reds, greens, and blues.
THEREFORE: Consider this issue to be one factor among the various trade-offs in technology. This may also help explain why DLP projectors often need to give up more lumens when achieving their best color modes.
As noted elsewhere, DLP has it's share of advantages as well, such as the lack of filters to change, which some of the LCD projectors now counter with filters than don't need changing for thousands of hours. And so it goes.
In normal classroom usage only a handful of these projectors are noisy enough to force you to "talk over them" All of them are definitely quiet enough in their low power or "eco" modes, to not be an issue. And for that matter, several have a mic input, how's that for helping the presenter or teacher, carry the room!
Keep in mind with traditional projectors, ceiling mounted, the projector is likely above the heads of students in a classroom. That's where a noisy projector is at the greatest disadvantage. With many of today's best school projectors being ultra-short throw, or very-short throw, however, that puts the projector above the teacher or behind the teacher up against the "screen" wall, where it's less likely to have impact on the students.
Not one of the 2012-2013 projectors tested proved to be really overly loud. A number of them were no noisier than some of the louder home theater projectors out there.
NEXT: Projectors - Warranty